Dr. Gerald Berenson

Published 1:16 pm Friday, December 14, 2018

Gerald Sanders Berenson, renowned cardiologist and academic, died at age 96, on Nov. 22, 2018, in his sleep in Houston, Texas.

He entered Tulane University at 16, never retired, and was still developing new directions for his celebrated research in heart disease and obesity. He was born in Bogalusa on Sept. 22, 1922.

He is preceded in death by his parents, Eva Singerman and Meyer Berenson; and his two sisters, Sara Stone and Byrde Haspel.

Berenson earned his medical degree from Tulane University, was elected to AOA society, and completed residencies in the U.S. Navy just as World War II ended. He then returned to Tulane, working with Dr. George Burch. Following that, he completed a two-year National Institutes of Health fellowship in pediatrics at The University of Chicago.

He was the second person to receive both the Spirit of Charity Award and the American Heart Association Population Research Prize, as well as many other awards. He was ahead of the curb, in realizing that obesity in adults began in early childhood, the importance of preventive cardiology, and the ill effects of obesity. He, and his much loved wife, Joan, returned to the city they both loved, where he began his 37 years at Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans. He served as Section Chief of Cardiology, became a Boyd Professor, the highest academic honor in the LSU system, and taught over 4,000 medical students.

While there, he visualized, conceived and developed the Bogalusa Heart Study that even today, after 46 years, shapes programs and broadens research.

The family wants to thank Acy Hartfield for his continued support of the study. Berenson was proud of his active Navy service, and was an advocate for the World War II museum. Besides academics, he also had a passion for Windy Hills Farm, Jewish life, and of course, his beloved and loving family. He treasured being surrounded by his family and traveling with them.

He was married for 67 years to Joan Seidenbach. Together, they had four children — Leslie, Ann (Richard Goldfarb), Robert (Irene), Laurie (Dale Maas). They were blessed with nine grandchildren — Aaron Berenson, David Goldfarb (Ann Axelrad), Stephen Goldfarb (Megan Breitenwischer), Andrew Goldfarb, Michael Berenson, Carl Berenson, Julia Berenson, Rachael Maas and Benjamin Maas; as well as three great-grandchildren, Maxwell Goldfarb, William Goldfarb and Gus Goldfarb, and numerous Labradors, which he adored.

Every week for his entire life, he drove 100 miles to visit another love, Windy Hills Farm, in Poplarville, Miss. It gave him such pleasure to see his cows and talk with local farmers. For the last few years, he could not have made the drive without the help from Dr. Jihua Xu. The family is extremely grateful for this dedicated friendship.

In 1961, Gerald and Joan were members of the first mission to Israel sponsored by the National United Jewish Appeal Young Leadership. This strengthened Gerald’s love for Israel and Judaism. He never missed the Sunday morning Shir Chasdash Men’s Club service and breakfast. His love for children and their well-being carried over into his Jewish life. He was honored by Jewish Children’s Regional Service, National Council of Jewish Women Greater New Orleans Section, and the New Orleans Jewish Day School.

Berenson was recognized by countless national and international organizations with many prestigious awards. Whether Jewish, medical, or agricultural, all represented equally important facets of his life. He was proud, but humble, always saying, his work “was recognized because of the quality of the research and the caliber of those associated with it.”

In lieu of flowers, Berenson hoped you would consider donations to Jewish Children’s Regional Service, 3500 N. Causeway Blvd. Ste. 1120, Metairie, LA 70002; New Orleans Jewish Day School, 3747 W. Esplanade Ave. Metairie, LA 70002; Louisiana State Medical School (UMC) Department of Cardiology, 2000 Canal St. New Orleans, LA 70112; or the charity of your choice.

Visitation for family and friends was Sunday, Nov. 25, at noon, followed by the funeral at 1 p.m. at Shir Chadash Congregation, located at 3737 W. Esplanade Ave. in Metairie. The burial was private.

Condolences may be expressed online at www.tharpsontheinerfh.com.